FOR the month of STEPtember, Ian Mayer OAM, has been putting his best foot forward for the 40,000 Australians living with cerebral palsy.
It is the most common physical disability in children, is a permanent, lifelong condition with no known cure which may require care 24 hours a day.
Over the last three years, Mr Mayer has been the highest individual fundraiser for STEPtember, a virtual global stepping and physical challenge to raise much-needed funds for vital equipment, research, therapy, and services for people living with cerebral palsy during the month of September.
Since 2012, Chatswood & Ryde Toyota, a Toyota dealership in Sydney under the guidance of Mr Mayer, have contributed $1.2 million to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA).
Mr Mayer grew up in Sydney knowing a man living with cerebral palsy, a few years younger than himself.
“I did see some of the difficulties he had with communication and mobility,” he said.
“When I first went along to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance facility at Allambie Heights it really drove home to me the challenges that families and individuals living with cerebral palsy experience.
“CPA do such amazing work, and I’ve always thought to myself: ‘if you’re in a position to help, you should try and help.’
“I saw first-hand some of these challenges faced by people living with cerebral palsy, so that’s what’s cemented my involvement and personal commitment to CPA.”
He has been a committed ‘stepper’ throughout September.
“Bentley, my golden retriever and I head out every day,” he said.
“We try and walk between 10,000 and 25,000 steps a day.”
Mr Mayer has raised $91,000 for the 2021 campaign and is sure he can reach his goal of $95,000 before the month is out.
The amount of money he has raised over the years has only been due to the support of friends.
“Whether it be mates in business or personal friends that support me, with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, they’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’m truly grateful for that,” he said.
“It’s the coffee shop that gives you a couple of hundred dollars, it’s the people who you bump into, or it’s a customer you’ve been dealing with for 20 years that just drops $200 into your account every now and again.
“To me the big donations from organisations and individuals are fantastic, but I just feel it brings a whole lot of my mates together and I feel very grateful that they support me year in, year out.”
This year, well-known personal trainer Commando Steve jumped on board as an ambassador for STEPtember, encouraging people to take the challenge to prioritise their physical and mental health for CPA.
“It’s all about raising funds for early intervention and detection for babies at risk, research, rural and regional services, telepractice services, technology and innovations for people living with cerebral palsy,” he said.
“This is a cause close to my heart.
“One of the first people I trained, after leaving the army, was an amazing young man who lives with cerebral palsy.
“His story and the challenges I watched him overcome have been a huge source of inspiration for me.”
Mr Mayer would like to see more support in the workplace for people living with cerebral palsy
“If anything, the one thing I would love to see going forward is more companies and organisations employing young people living with cerebral palsy,” he said.
“Employment is not just great for them, but it gives their families time to potentially look after other children, or take part in other activities.
“I guess one of the benefits for the company is that when you employ them, they make a contribution that you can’t quite measure.
“For example, I debated about putting a kid with an acquired brain injury into a particular role.
“I put him under a manager who is typically pretty tough and pretty direct.
“I rang the manager a day later to see how he was going.
‘’Mate, I love this kid, I want him to stay with us forever.’” he replied.
Mr Mayer said the kid was so excited about catching a train by himself to get to work.
“It’s been really, really uplifting for all of us,” he said.
In Australia, a child is born with cerebral palsy every 20 hours, accounting for 1 in every 700 births.